COWARD, S.C. – A weekend of camping, kayaking and fishing brought veterans from Charleston to Fayetteville, North Carolina, together July 5-7 at Lynches River County Park.
The group camped out with Heroes on Water, a therapeutic program for veterans, active-duty military and first responders and families, The event includes a no-expense kayak fishing trip in a calm and peaceful environment. The national veterans nonprofit group was organized in 2007.
Darrell Olson, chapter coordinator of Heroes on Water, led the group of nine men, women and children as they experienced a weekend of relaxation and fellowship with like-minded people.
Olson said the chapter of Heroes on Water is based at Charleston.
“We are the only chapter in South Carolina,” he said. “We started in 2015.
He said veterans from this area and as far away as Aiken and North Carolina started showing up at their events, so they decided to host at least one event a year in this area so they wouldn’t have to travel to Charleston. He said they have also held events in Lexington and other areas.
“Our goal is for someone up here to start their own chapter,” Olson said.
Heretofore, the event has just been kayaking, but they added the camping experience this year.
The event is at no cost to the veterans or first responders.
On July 6, after Olson prepared the group a breakfast of pancakes and sausage, they set off for a leisurely trip down Lynches River. Their destination was to reach a landing at the bridge on U.S. 52.
Olson said the trip would be 3½ to five miles.
“This is our second event of this kind,” Olson said.
“We even provide the kayaks,” he said. “We also provide a fishing rod to fish along the way.”
Olson said some of the meals were provided by Low Country Kayak Anglers.
Olson said veterans and first responders don’t have to wait until an organized event to participate. He said some call and ask to be taken out with their families. He said if it can be arranged, the group will do so.
Jesus Ramirez said he came for the fellowship and bonding with other veterans. He brought his wife and son with him from Fayetteville. It was his first time with the group.
“It is always good to have a connection with fellow veterans,” he said. “I love kayaking, so that is another reason I decided to come.”
Sue Kerver said this is her second time with Heroes on Water. She participated in another event a couple of years ago.
“I like to camaraderie with veterans, and being outdoors helps me to decompress and find peace,” she said.
Kerver is from Charleston and was a member of the Coast Guard.
Eric Arroyo, a native of Puerto Rico currently living in West Ashley, served 24 years in the United States Navy.
Arroyo said he came for the fellowship with other veterans who have shared life experiences.
He said Heroes on Water is a national organization that he could have similar experiences in other parts of country and continue to be part of a family.
“It is one of the best ways of relaxation in a non-stress environment for people suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder),” Arroyo said.
He said he likes to fish but doesn’t really care if he catches anything on this trip.
“It is just beautiful and great to be here,” he said.
Mike Floyd of Lamar also participated in the event.
“This is my second one of these,” he said. “I love these guys, the friends and fellowship.”
“It is enjoyable and relaxing,” he said.
He said he likes the challenge of kayaking.
“Rather than being in a normal boat, it is a lot more exciting,” he said. “I don’t care if I do catch any fish or not. I just like watching the others.”
Floyd served in the U.S. Army for 10 years in Italy, Korea and the United States.